FSC Stands in Solidarity with Ukrainian Student

Mar 25, 2022

by FSC Staff

Mariia Rezhylo ’23 felt the weight of loneliness and helplessness when she learned Russia invaded her home country of Ukraine on February 24. 

“The first three days were really hard for me,” she said. “I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t focus. I would just lay in bed thinking about what could happen.”

Mariia, who is a member of the women’s swim team and a psychology and sports management double major, felt like there was nothing she could do while her family in Kyiv was experiencing the beginning of a war.

Her parents are currently in Kyiv, her father patrolling the streets with the Ukrainian armed forces and her mother volunteering at a bakery making bread and cookies for those in need taking cover in bomb shelters.

Before the invasion, Mariia’s father was an executive director for Ukrainian Railways. Her mother is a midwife. Luckily, Mariia is able to speak to her parents daily; they have a mutual agreement to keep their conversations positive.

“They don’t want me to be sad,” she said. “I know they have it harder.”

The streets Mariia know as home are now part of a war torn region. She wonders if she will have a home to return to.

“I don’t know when I am going to see my family again,” she said.

Since the start of the invasion, Mariia said she has felt overwhelming support from several people at Florida Southern. Dr. Anne B. Kerr, president of FSC, reached out to her personally. She has received support from the counseling center, swim coaches, and more.

“It’s honestly amazing,” she said. “It makes you feel like you aren’t alone”

Even though Mariia is not in Ukraine with her family, she wanted to help any way she could. When her uncle, who is in Ukraine, sent her an email about Ukraine Express she reached out for support on campus.

Ukraine Express is a shipping company located in New Castle, Del., that is sending goods to Ukraine at no cost. Mariia reached out asking if the College could help; Student Government Association, along with FSC’s Dean of Students Mike Crawford immediately got involved and made the idea a reality.

Using their swipes, students can purchase items to donate in Moc Mart, then drop them in donation boxes located at Moc Mart, TUTU’s, the Lobby and Student Org room in Rogers, and the Fannin Center.

Items needed for donation are medical tourniquets, hemostatic-Celox, first aid kits, painkillers such as Ibuprofen or Tylenol, adhesive plasters in rolls, bandages, soothing ointments, and antiseptics.

All members of the community are welcome to donate supplies, or monetary donations can be given online through www.flsouthern.edu/giving. If donating online, make sure to add “Ukraine Project” to the “other section”. If donating through PayPal, add “Ukraine Project” to “special instructions”.

The donation drive ends on April 7, and the items will be shipped to the Ukraine Express the week of April 11.

In the midst of a crisis, Mariia feels like her campus community stepped up. She is grateful for the compassion she has been shown.

“It (the donations) might seem like something small and insignificant to us, but it is really significant over there,” she said. “It feels like they are helping my family directly.”